Sunday night at The Highdive: 150 people, and maybe 25 were drinking. David Bazan has a devoted following. They flock with questions in tow, and feelings of close connection to his openness and candor. Even after the show, he took the time to converse and flesh out the feelings and admiration his doting fan base furls upon him. He is gracious and sincere. It is clear that David loves playing and sharing his music.
I caught the last three songs of Seattle’s Say Hi. A dynamic indie-power pop group fronted by Eric Elbogen, who along with fellow multi-instrumentalist tour mate Andy Fitts, comprised two-fifths of Bazan’s touring band. Their sound tends to dwell in a lo-fi valley always brought back to the peaks with tight vocal harmony and rhythm. After a brief sound check, Bazan took the stage with Sufjan Stevens collaborator Casey Foubert on drums, and long-time collaborator Blake Wescott on guitar.
This is the first time Bazan has toured with a band in almost five years, and it really seemed like he had not missed a beat. I had never seen Pedro the Lion, and missed a chance at one of his house shows earlier this year. However, his new release, Curse Your Branches, is on steady rotation in the Subaru. So I knew what to expect, and wasn’t disappointed.
Opening with “Hard to Be”, a song which perfectly sets up his faith questioning narrative found throughout the new release. It is truly a solid album, and even better live. His following was still treated to some Pedro the Lion tunes as well as material from 2007’s Fewer Moving Parts. The highlight for me was “Please Baby, Please.” This single song contains all the things I love about Paul Simon’s Graceland and the the Tokens’ hit “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”.
Throughout the set Bazan pauses to ask the audience if they have any questions about what is going on. Some questions are more like praises, and tend to get Bazan fading back into the music when it is prolonged. However, some questions seek to unravel his process and motive, pondering whether a song is first-person fictional narrative or real life story. Every question reveals an intimate relationship between these concert goers and his music. Some even pry out fun at Blake Wescott’s resemblance to the animatronic bear at Disney World and Tom Waits. Goodtimes! It is always pleasant when music becomes personal and the line between the audience and stage is crossed.
The set was succinct at just over an hour, with no encore. This didn’t leave any bitter tastes, just more time for fans to chat with David by the bar. The show was a bargain at $10, and further emphasizes the sacrifices he is willing to make for the connection, rather than for the money. If you get a chance to check out one of his house shows, do it before they fill up.
And make sure you bring your questions if clarification is needed.